Today Gosha Rubchinskiy drops a new collaboration with Russian pop group Mumiy Troll. It’s not exactly a straightforward move: the band has been a true power house in Russia since the ’90s but is relatively unknown in the West. At the same time, it’s very much in line with Rubchinskiy’s grand ambition of introducing his global fanbase to the unknown treasures of Russian culture: such as artist Timur Novikov, director Renata Litvinova or St Petersburg’s underground rave scene.
The capsule collection features an oversized sweatshirt, two T-shirts and a surfboard with graphics from Mumiy Troll’s iconic album Morskaya. Released in 1997, Morskaya was an era-defining record for several generations of post-Soviet kids. In fact, almost every Russian person over 25, myself included, could effortlessly sing along to almost every tune.
20 years ago you’d hear them on the radio, at school discos, from passing cars — they’re completely ingrained in our memory, and from time to time pop up at house parties. But it’s not just nostalgia which makes Mumiy Troll worth revisiting — but the groundbreaking energy Russian pop culture possessed at the time.
The ’90s in Russia was a turbulent decade — unemployment and crime rates surged, but in the atmosphere of uncertainty, youth culture blossomed. In the midst of the avalanche of goods and information from the East and West, the young Russian generation was electrified by freedom.
Some went on to organize mind-blowing raves (the legendary Gagarin party, for example, which took place at the space pavilion of the All-Russia exhibition centre amongst derelict satellites and rocket engines), some founded experimental fashion magazines OM and Ptyuch, and some took up genre-bending pop music.
Mumiy Troll’s vocalist Ilya Lagutenko was among the poster boys of the movement — ambiguous, strange and irresistibly attractive. With his manic blue eyes and cat-like moves, he represented the new kind of pop performer who whispered sweet poetry of forbidden night outs.
When Morskaya became a hit in 1997, Lagutenko was already more than familiar with challenging the standards of masculinity. Mumiy Troll was founded in 1983, the final decade of the Soviet Union. Back then, they looked up to the New Wave, and bands like Spandau Ballet and Soft Cell. Lagutenko was constantly changing outfits on stage, including a leather skirt, which at the time was shocking to say the least.
Upon entering the stardom, Lagutenko has held on to the ambiguous style: he sported a pixie cut, tight turtleneck jumpers, leather trousers, and, in the iconic video to the hit “Utekay,” long acrylic nails. The aesthetic of the band’s music videos, both for Utekai and Kot Kota, was in line with all the oddities of ’90s fashion, and could easily be a backstage of some bonkers photo shoot.
The look for Mumiy Troll has always been just as crucial as the sound — they were true pop stars of the new era, fit for CDs, TV and the endless adoration of youth.
To photograph the capsule collection, Gosha Rubchinskiy travelled all the way to Mumiy Troll’s native Vladivostok in the far east of Russia. Vladivostok is a large port city on the Pacific Ocean, not far from Russia’s borders with China and North Korea, and for its grand bridges and connection to the Ocean is sometimes nicknamed “the San Francisco of the East”. It’s not a coincidence that the capsule features a surf board — the presence of the Ocean is crucial to the city.
It often pops up in Mumiy Troll’s lyrics: the constant presence of sailors, mermaids, fish and caviar, wind and fluidity, and rough romanticism of the port. Rubchinskiy’s photographs, breathing the salty romanticism of the Pacific wilderness, remind us that Russia is much more than just the urban jungles of Moscow.
Despite the fact that to most of Rubchinskiy’s audience Mumiy Troll would seem like just a niche Russian band, Morskaya was in fact was recorded in London, and Lagutenko lived in Brixton at the time. Since their breakthrough, the band enjoyed a successful career, released 13 albums, and one of the latest, Malibu Alibi from 2016, was compiled from songs created during the band’s round-the-world trip on a 19th-century sailing ship.
The band is well known in China and Japan, and has had numerous tours around North America and Europe. Their hits Vladivostok 2000, Kot Kota and Nevesta has become highly cited anthems, and their cryptic radical poetry has withstood time. When it comes to it Mumiy Troll, is definitely a good name to wear on your sleeve.
But in the end, what do these numerous cultural links mean in the context of contemporary streetwear? First of all, it points out the place it occupies in contemporary pop culture. “Brands like Supreme and Gosha replaced musicians,” Rubchinskiy said in an interview with Business of Fashion last year. “Before, teenagers had a favourite band and they waited to be the first to get new singles. Now, you do not need to go to stores to buy records. But I think people still want to have objects. They buy t-shirts not as clothes, but as a fan piece or something collectable.” It’s interesting to see this reversed logic in action: as a teenager, Rubchinskiy was excited to get Mumiy Troll’s latest record — today it’s the appeal of his own creative universe which drives the obsession.
- Lead image: Gosha Rubchinskiy
- Featured image: Gosha Rubchinskiy